Emilie Olsen's death back in national spotlight

Posted at 12:17 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 12:22:24-04

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — The story of Emilie Olsen -- and the lawsuit surrounding her suicide -- is back in the national spotlight.

The Washington Post posted a report Monday that details the case and asks the question: "After years of alleged bullying, an Ohio teen killed herself. Is her school district responsible?"

Emilie's parents filed a federal lawsuit in December that accuses nine Fairfield City Schools officials, the school district and the school board of knowing the 13-year-old was bullied at school and did not act to stop it before she committed suicide in December of 2014. 

In their multi-count claim against the Fairfield City School District, the Olsens allege a failure at every level -- from teachers to guidance counselors, assistant principals, principals and the district superintendent -- to provide a safe learning environment for their daughter.

Specifically, they allege:

  • violations of Emilie's right to due process by failing to address the bullying
  • discrimination on the basis of national origin
  • discrimination on the basis of her gender
  • violations of their obligation to respond to bullying, harassment and assault/battery
  • negligence and gross negligence
  • wrongful death
  • And much more

The Washington Post's story Monday comes in the wake of two recent changes to the district's administration. 

Former Fairfield City Schools superintendent Paul Otten, who is among the defendants named in the complaint, left his position last month to become the superintendent of the nearby Beavercreek City School District.

Fairfield Middle School Principal Lincoln Butts resigned last week for "personal reasons" amid accusations he intimidated Emilie's parentsafter her death. 


Cindy and Marc Olsen claimed Butts showed up at their home, unannounced and accompanied by two police officers five days after their daughter's suicide. The parents claim Butts and police demanded that Marc Olsen let them into his home but refused to say why they were there. One officer flashed his badge, Marc and Cindy Olsen said.

Emilie Olsen's yearbook photo

READ the lawsuit here

Last December, the case was featured on Good Morning America. ABC News' legal analyst Dan Abrams said the legal battle will focus on what the school district did or did not do to prevent bullying.

"Maybe most importantly, did the school district know about it and did they, as the plaintiffs allege here, literally put her back into classes with the bullies that they’d reported about. That’s a critical question," Abrams said.

"There’s a clear law in Ohio, an anti-bullying law, which requires school districts to take action," he added. "Now the superintendent actually wrote a letter to the school community saying that he didn’t think bullying had to do with this so there's going to be clear factual disputes."

Four days after Emilie's suicide, Fairfield City School District administrators were confident enough to release this statement to parents and students:

“There have been many rumors and misinformation about bullying with regard to this tragedy. The district has never had an indication – by self-report, or reports from others – that bullying has ever occurred.”

But WCPO's I-Team found emails, school reports, a social media accountand more that showed the exact opposite was true.

READ the I-Team’s special report

Since then, more parents have come forward claiming their child was being bullied while under the school district’s supervision.

Bullying and Suicide Resources

The Family Violence Prevention Project

Greater Cincinnati Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network

Cincinnati Children's Anti-Bullying Curriculum

The Girls Guide to End Bullying -  Ohio anti-bullying laws & policies

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Ohio Suicide Hotlines

Cincinnati Children's 'Surviving the Teens' Suicide Prevention program